Family Law: Matrimonial Agreements
Pre-nupts. Everyone has heard of them. Not everyone understands them. Frankly, they get a bad reputation.
As noted under the section on community property, Louisiana is a community property state. This means that if the parties do nothing else, they have community property when they marry. Further, Louisiana has an extensive set of rules that govern what is, and isn’t community property, and what to do with it.
Pre-nuptial agreements (or “antenuptial agreements”, “ante” meaning “before”) are contracts that spouses to be sign. In many cases, for any number of reasons, the parties may decide they want the rules between them to be different from the “default” rules of community property. Perhaps they want to change all of the rules, or just some of them (or even, a single rule). The way to do that is through a prenuptial agreement.
Many people assume that a pre-nuptial agreement is “planning for divorce”. That’s unfair and inaccurate. What pre-nuptial agreements do is give the parties the ability to have control over the rules governing their affairs. Consider, divorce isn’t the only thing that terminates a marriage–so does death. Pre-nuptial agreements can not only be important in the context of a divorce, they can also be important in the context of a succession.
Consider also that community property laws may impact each spouse in ways they didn’t imagine. For example, a pre-existing debt of a spouse before marriage is the separate debt of that spouse, but it can be collected against community property, including community earnings. Many people enter into pre-nuptial agreements to address this very issue.
Now, in fairness, the parties can’t simply agree to anything they want. There are limitations and sometimes the parties attempt to do things that court’s have found “violate public policy”. In short, there are some agreements that you can’t make. This is why it is important to seek legal counsel.
Also, while pre-nuptials involve contracts signed before the parties are married, it’s also possible to make changes after marriage. In fairness, to do so can be more complicated, and often requires court approval (depending on exactly what it is you are trying to do). Again, this is a time to seek and obtain competent legal counsel.
We have considerable experience in the area and we stand ready to assist you.
Family Law Lawyer D. Reardon Stanford practices Matrimonial Agreements.